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English Premiership

Crunch time for Blackburn

BLACKBURN, March 3 – New Zealand defender Ryan Nelsen believes Blackburn are entering a run of games that will decide the Premier League fate as his side prepare to host Everton on Wednesday.

RYAN_NELSENNelsen continues to be a cornerstone of a Rovers side that has finally moved out of the relegation zone, two months after Sam Allardyce’s arrival at Ewood Park.

Blackburn have lost just twice in the Premier League under Allardyce, slipping to defeats to high-flying Aston Villa and Manchester United.

Blackburn’s 2-1 win at Hull at the weekend – their first victory on the road since September – pulled them out of the bottom three and offered a much-needed tonic after their FA Cup exit at Championship club Coventry.

Now Nelsen has called on Blackburn to make the most of their next two matches – at home against Everton and away at Fulham – to continue their upward trajectory.

He said: "A nice run would be most welcome and if we can get points from Everton and get points from Fulham, it’ll stand us in good stead and it’ll make a lot of teams around us very nervous.

"We’ve got the quality I think and the Hull game is a good start but we’ve got some really important games coming up. We’ve dragged more teams back into it and it’s going to happen between now and the end of the season."

"Just when you think you’re out, you get dragged back in and when you’re in trouble, you’ll win one. It’s going to be like that so it’s going to be consistency that will get you out and that’s what we need. We need to continue to put in consistent performances and continue to take points."

South African striker Benni McCarthy has lost his place in the Blackburn teamn as Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz returns to fitness and form, but his ability to snatch a goal from nothing is certain to prove crucial before the end of the season.

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Rovers are hopeful that England international goalkeeper Paul Robinson will be able to overcome a shoulder injury to feature against David Moyes’ side at Ewood Park.

Everton full-back Tony Hibbert is doubtful with a thigh problem and they will again be without long-term absentees Mikel Arteta, Ayegbeni Yakubu and James Vaughan.

But England defender Phil Jagielka feels that France striker Louis Saha, who returned from a thigh problem to score in the 2-0 win over West Brom at the weekend, can go a long way to making up for those absences.
Jagielka hopes that Saha can ease the burden on Australia star Tim Cahill.

"I think if you ask anyone who has either played alongside or against Louis they will tell you he is a fantastic player," Jagielka said.

"He proved it again with a great goal. He didn’t even look up and it was a top quality finish. Injuries have meant he’s not been able to play a massive amount this season but now it’s important we keep him as fit as possible.

"He’s trained really well recently and when he joins in the five-a-side it’s clear he has a hell of a lot of natural ability – he’s been proving that on a daily basis.

"We can’t always rely on Tim for goals and Louis has a key role to play in that. If we can keep him injury-free it will be a massive bonus for us in the next few months."

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